SAN DIEGO, March 8, 2014 — “Congressman Darrell Issa’s behavior was crude, wrong, racist and mean towards Congressman Elijah Cummings. Do you agree?”
Those were the tweeted words of long time popular civil rights leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson. Was he reacting to a racial slur? Was he protesting the introduction of a bill to bring back Jim Crow?
Jackson may think he follows in the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, but this particular protest wasn’t about Civil Rights. It’s not that the incident isn’t important in its own right — it is, but not for the reasons Jackson suggests.
His tweet was in reaction to an intense moment on Capital Hill.
Immediately following former IRS official Lois Lerner’s second round of “testimony” before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, all hell broke loose between Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and the committee’s lead Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.)
Lerner was in charge of the IRS division that delayed or stifled non-profit, tax-exempt status to applicants representing Tea Party groups, pro-life organizations, or other conservative causes. After she herself came clean and admitted to singling out these groups, Lerner did an about-face by asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege instead of answering questions at a 2013 congressional hearing. Later on, she resigned her post.
Lerner was recalled before the same committee last Wednesday. Her attorney, William Taylor had promised something much different in anticipation of her “second coming.” Instead, every person in the room experienced something like deja vu. Lerner once again pleaded the Fifth. In fact, she pleaded it again and again by answering every question the same:
“On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully exercise my Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer that question,”
Chairman Issa was not going to stand for such a mockery of the hearings. Instead of allowing Lerner to act out more repeat performances than Le Miserables, he started to adjourn the meeting.
But this ending turned out to be a new beginning as the room was treated to another performance, this time from Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this,” Cummings said sharply.
Issa did not seem interested in hearing more. Cummings continued only to find his mic muted.
“We’re adjourned,” Issa said obviously annoyed and disappointed in Lerner’s refusal to cooperate.
“I don’t care,” Cummings continued. “The fact is I am asking a question. I am the ranking member of this committee and I want to ask a question! What are we hiding? What’s the big deal? May I ask my question? May I make my statement?”
Finally Issa permitted Cummings to ask his question but the exchange morphed into argument about whether Cummings was really asking something or simply looking for an excuse too speak.
At this point, the committee’s Republicans walked away to the sound of hisses and boo’s from Democrats.
Issa himself stayed behind but not for long. He allowed Cummings one more chance to prove that he had a genuine question.
Cummings responded to the opportunity by saying, “If you will sit down and allow me to ask a question. I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America! I am tired of this! We have members over here each who represent 700,000 people! You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that and this is absolutely un-American.”
Issa replied, “We had a hearing. It was adjourned. I gave you an opportunity to ask a question. You had no question.”
Then he too darted out of the room.
This was a bad day for our country. It demonstrated a complete breakdown in a system where both parties are supposed too put their biases aside and work for the common good.
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But that particular problem is not what upset Jackson. The default setting of Jackson’s agenda is to accuse people of racism, racism, or more racism.
It’s amazing how Jackson finds racist motives simply because a white man (Issa) and an African-American (Cummings) have a disagreement. Is it possible that Issa was concerned about other things? Aren’t liberals the ones always lecturing conservatives about how they should stop being so simple minded and instead deal with the nuances and complexities of life?
Wednesday’s madness represented quite a bit of complexity, the overlapping of many important issues.
We are talking about an IRS out of control, with possible links to the While House. Then, we have the Justice Department which seems to show microscopic interest.
There are legal questions: The last time Lerner went before this committee, she first insisted she was innocent of any wrong doing and then took the Fifth. Can she testify to her innocence only to then claim the right to remain silent? Lawyers are haggling over that question.
As for there being no love lost between Issa and Cummings, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain Issa’s behavior. Issa was annoyed because for the second time, Lois Lerner wasted the time and money of taxpayers. As a result, he was not interested in listening to Cummings pontificate once again about the unfairness of the hearings.
None of this matters to Jesse Jackson. Racism! That’s what it is! And whereas Jackson invited his Twitter followers to offer their own opinions, he himself was not sharing an opinion. No, this was a fact. This was racism, period.
That’s one way to look at it. Or maybe the more appropriate word would be “race baiter.” Yes, Jackson is a race baiter. His tweet was shameless and despicable.
Many Americans will see it that way. If they’re Republicans or other types of conservatives, they too will be called “racist.” If Chairman Issa is a racist for challenging Congressman Cummings, than obviously anyone who challenges a civil rights leader such as Rev. Jackson is also racist, even if such a challenger enthusiastically supports the likes of Herman Cain, Alan West, Ben Carson, Mia Love and Condoleezza Rice.
It doesn’t matter. Today’s definition of racist is, “anyone who dares to speak against liberal agendas, Democratic politicians, or Democratic controlled divisions of our federal government.”
This is a tragedy. It waters down the word racist to the point where people no longer take it seriously. Ironically, this enables the real racists. As in the story of the boy who cried wolf, the next time a man like Jackson discovers real honest-to-goodness racism, he may find that his cries of justice are no longer being taken seriously.
In any event, racism is only one example of many evils. Jackson’s tweet distracts from this current IRS scandal which every citizen, black or white, Democrat or Republican, should be taking seriously.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and columnist. Information about his radio show can be found at bobsiegel.net.
ABC News, Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this article.